'Guns are not the solution to gun violence': Marjory Stoneman Douglas student panel disagrees over arming school staff
A panel of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students criticized Legislature's decision to place one armed school resource officer or trained guardian at every school during a March for Our Lives Road to Change tour stop in Daytona Beach on Sunday, July 15.
“We shouldn’t be reactive," said Ryan Servaites, a 15-year-old rising sophomore at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. "We should be preventative. We shouldn’t need a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun because the bad guy shouldn’t have the gun.”
A crowd of about 200 attended the event at the Daytona Beach Regional City Island Library, including Democratic Congressional Candidates Stephen Sevigny, Nancy Soderberg and John Upchurch. Though it was a nonpartisan event, Risa Ross, organizer of the March for Our Lives event, said all Republican Congressional candidates either ignored the invite or declined to attend.
Aside from Servaites, the panel was made up of rising seniors Aalayah Eastmond and Kristen McConnell, recent graduate Delaney Tarr and 19-year-old Amit Dadon, who graduated in 2017 from Marjory Stoneman Douglas. They were joined by Melbourne High School students senior Karly Hudson and junior Carmel Alshaibi.
Alshaibi said the measures being taken now, including arming school staff, adding metal detectors and making students wear clear backpacks, were just "Band-Aid" solutions. The panel agreed.
“When you break it all down, the solution to gun violence is not more guns," McConnell said.
Servaites said teachers in particular already wear too many hats in a classroom and that they're meant to be educators, not protectors.
“We need to stop school shootings from happening in the first place, not think of ways to react to them, and it’s just ridiculous because I remember a few years ago we had to have a limitation on how much paper we could use at Douglas because we didn’t have enough money," Servaites said. "So now we want to arm the teachers?”
Dealing with Florida areas that are 'unresponsive' to gun laws
Servaites said that as they've gone through the tour, they've noticed that whatever beliefs they hold, people are open to start conversations about gun laws. He said that's the most powerful thing that can be done to help "shape someone's opinion on this issue" and that he's found that a lot of people are simply uninformed or have a wrong idea about what they stand for.
“The only way we’re going to find the solution is if we talk to these people and if we together come together as Americans and try to solve this issue," Servaites said.
Tarr said that no matter where they go, there is at least someone who cares about taking action and wants to speak out.
"And our goal, going to these areas, is to find those people and give them a voice and give them a platform," Tarr said.
What do they define as success for the tour?
The panel said keeping an ongoing conversation about gun violence would be a win after the tour. Eastmond added that success would also be bringing the issue of gun violence in urban communities into the conversation as well.
Dadon said success to him means saving lives.
“As long as we keep the conversation going after we leave this room, I would also define that as success because if we stop talking about this, then ultimately we have failed and you have failed us," McConnell said.
Balancing activism with being a regular kid
Servaites said getting involved in your community and trying to better your future is part of being a teenager. They still hang out with other teens, but they share a passionate will to act.
“Activism is our regular," Tarr said. "We don’t have the choice to become just regular teens and throw all of this away because this is what we were thrown into.”
Eastmond, who said she suffers from the guilt aspect of PTSD, said she has to remind herself that her health comes first before anything else and that it's OK to take time for herself.
“We take solace in the fact that we have a support system in each other, that we have these small moments of just being regular, of laughing and being us again, of having those moments captured and just remembered," Tarr said. "That’s really where it lies. That’s where the happiness in this lies.”
Dadon said they are involved for those who can't be.
"We’re here for those kids that we’ve lost that can no longer just be teenagers because of that gun violence," Dadon said.